It was a day of high drama and controversy at the Chandigarh Golf Club as 21-year-old, Chandigarh golfer Karandeep Kochhar had to go into play-off against Anirban Lahiri after he was imposed a one-stroke penalty, because of accidentally moving the ball, post the tournament committee’s decision, in what was supposed to be the final day of the Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational presented by Take Sports at Chandigarh Golf Club. While Kochhar and Lahiri ended the regulation holes with matching totals of 11-under-277, the duo were tied after the first play-off holes before bad light forced the play to Monday.
While Kochhar was leading Lahiri and Aman Raj by three strokes after the 16th hole, Kochhar’s first shot hit a tree and landed in rough– following which, he accidentally moved the ball and the spot referee termed it as a penalty. Subsequently, tournament referee Sampat Chari was asked to intervene and after consultation, Chari decided that it was ‘no penalty’. Kochhar made a bogey on the 17th hole, while Lahiri sank a birdie on the 17th hole, trailing Kochhar by two strokes. On the 18th hole, Lahiri made a birdie and Kochhar made a par with Kochhar leading Lahiri by one stroke at that point before it was decided that the matter of issuing penalty or not has been referred to the tournament committee.
Following consideration, it was decided that one stroke penalty would be levied on Kochhar– meaning that both the players were tied and play-off will happen. “After the ball landed in the rough, I was searching for the ball when it caused the ball to accidentally move by my feet. This was stated by the players of my group also when the on-spot referee termed it as a penalty as he stated that I was generally walking and not searching the ball but the chief referee termed it as no penalty at that time. I think there was some problem later and I am not thinking about it now,” said Kochhar while speaking to The Indian Express.
Later in the evening, Kochhar tweeted “As a kid, I would brag to my friends, who played other sports, that I play a game which is full of integrity and with no politics. What transpired on Sunday has made me question the state of that in our country. Irrespective of the result, I don’t need a cheque and a trophy to know that I won this tournament fair and square. Hope this never happens to any player again. I will come out of this better and stronger.”
As per the rules regarding causing the ball to move, the golf rules by the R&A and USGA, golf’s joint ruling bodies regarding rules: the rule 7.4 states that there is no penalty if the player’s ball is accidentally moved by the player, opponent or anyone else while trying to find or identify it. Apart from rule 7.4, rule 9.4 is applied only when it is known or virtually certain that a player (including the player’s caddie) lifted his or her ball at rest or caused it to move. The rule 9.4 states that if the player lifts or deliberately touches his or her ball at rest or causes it to move, the player gets one penalty stroke with one of four, exception being rule 7.4.
On Sunday, Kochhar was imposed a one-stroke penalty by the tournament committee stating that “for accidentally causing the ball to move on the 17th hole,” and the ball was kicked accidentally but not during the process of searching it, but before the player had reached the intentional spot for searching it. Kochhar’s grandfather Dr GS Kochhar believes that if there was a penalty, it would have been imposed at that moment and not after the end of the regulation play. “Karandeep stated that he was searching for the ball while on-the-spot referee said that it was a penalty. Post that, chief referee Sampat, who has experience of more than 800 events, said that there was no penalty and told Karandeep must continue to play. If there was a penalty according to the officials, why was Karandeep told after the end of the round? He played with a belief in his mind that there was no penalty and if the penalty would have been imposed at that moment itself, he could have played differently,” said Dr GS Kochhar.
“The penalty was imposed as it was found that the player had given two different version of the incident to the on-spot referee and chief referee, respectively. Till that time, details were confirmed. And when it was found that the ball was accidentally moved and not while searching the ball, the penalty was imposed,” said Mundy.
Earlier in the day, Kochhar, who had made a score of four-over-76 in the opening round, climbed five spots in the fourth round to be tied with Lahiri at the top spot.
While Kochhar carded a round of four-under-68 after the penalty, Lahiri carded a round of three-under-69 to be tied with Kochhar. On the first play-off hole, Lahiri made a birdie whereas Kochhar too sank a birdie forcing the second play-off. On the second play-off hole, Kochhar made par while Lahiri missed an easy chance for birdie and made par resulting in Kochhar still in chance. Bad light forced the play to stop and it was decided that the winner will be determined on Monday, after the next play-off.